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#TrailTuesday: Exploring the Woods Creek Rustic Trail of Lower Huron Metropark

Welcome back to our #TrailTuesday Series! This edition explores one of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks' premiere riverside trails: the Woods Creek Rustic Trail of Lower Huron Metropark. Join us as we the rugged ravines, gardens, and riverside views of this Southeast Michigan gem!

expedition detroit lower huron metropark woods creek hiking rustic trail

This may be a polarizing way to start an article, but I'm an unapologetic "List Person." Long-time readers know this all too well by this point, given Expedition Detroit's monthly "Top Outdoor Events" and similar list-orientated articles.

What can I say - regardless of planning out an effective workday or the trip of a lifetime, I'm a huge fan of the organization and prioritization that lists can provide. Especially when a singular item, task, or experience checks off multiple items at once.

You already know where this is going.

Fellow outdoor enthusiasts, we'd like to formally reintroduce a trail that belongs on every list maker's agenda: the Woods Creek Rustic Trail of Lower Huron Metropark. Why? For starters, our resident trail runners will immediately notice that the trail is 3.1 miles long, i.e. a 5K distance. Kayakers and Huron River aficionados will love the trail's uninterrupted mile of riverside access. Oh, and this route is also ordained as one of the coveted 13 "Challenge Trails" included in the Metroparks' 2024 "Trail Challenge" series.

And, last but not least, we're proud to feature the Woods Creek Rustic Trail within our #TrailTuesday series!

expedition detroit lower huron metropark woods creek hiking rustic trail


Established in 1951, Lower Huron Metropark constituted the third Metropark and the first to open its gates to the public within Wayne County. Fortuitously straddling both banks of the Huron River in Belleville, Michigan, the park's designers envisioned Lower Huron Metropark's expansive fields and old growth forest to provide an idyllic picnicking location within a short drive from Detroit, Dearborn, and Ann Arbor. The future completion of I-94 and I-275, and their proximity to the Metropark's boundaries, ensured Lower Huron Metropark's popularity with Metro Detroit's recreational community for generations to come.

Jumping ahead to 2024, Lower Huron Metropark has retained its picnicking legacy - as well as a lifetime of recreational opportunities within its 1,256 acres. Visitors can run or inline skate along a paved hike-bike trail - which forms a scenic portion of the Iron Belle Trail and will eventually connect directly to the Border to Border Trail. Other favorite past times at Lower Huron include shoreline fishing, paddling along the Huron, and observing waterfowl and other wildlife on the water.

Summer at the metropark also features zipping down two waterslides, drifting along a lazy river, and getting soaked under the 300-gallon dumping bucket at the Turtle Cove Family Aquatic Center. All idyllic family-friendly activities to pair with your natural experience hiking along the Woods Creek Rustic Trail.

Now let's get to the trail.


Total Distance: 3.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 164 feet

Trail Rating: Easy

Route Orientation: Loop

Parking Specifics: Parking available at trailhead parking lots (Metroparks Pass required)

From the Woods Creek Rd. Trailhead - prominently marked by the Metroparks' trademark kiosk - the only way to head is down. According to AllTrails, that means a 40 foot drop-off just past the eastern end of the parking lot. For Expedition Detroit, we hiked due north past the kiosk towards the "Metroparks Trail Challenge" sign before descending the boardwalk stairs turning east on the first natural trail that we came across.

Regardless of your chosen approach to the Woods Creek Rustic Trail, all routes will converge by the 0.1 mile marker. You'll then cross a scenic bridge, stumble upon a panoramic view of the Huron River, and then turn west for the most fun - and challenging - segment of the trail.

expedition detroit lower huron metropark woods creek hiking rustic trail

Don't let the gorgeous views of the Huron distract you too much - the roots are coming.

Once you start trekking parallel to the river, the next mile of hiking consists of a roller coaster of dramatic, scenic, and root-filled hiking. The chasm that hits at the 0.3 mile marker is particularly memorable, although the sharp climbs and descents throughout this segment of the trail all stand out in their own right.

You'll know that you're getting close to the Huron River turnoff when you hit a series of successive hills - three to be exact - starting at the 0.6 mile marker. Each one slightly lower in elevation than the last, until you finally reach the lowest point of the entire trail along the banks of the Huron River.

expedition detroit lower huron metropark woods creek hiking rustic trail

As you might expect, the next 0.3 miles consists largely of a climb from the river, through the woods, until finally reaching a segment that we've dubbed "The Plateau." If you're a trail runner, then this is the perfect stretch for you: 0.8 miles of largely uninterrupted, consistent, and flowing wooded trail. We don't know what the Strava record is for this segment, but it's probably ripe for the breaking.

Regardless of the pace that you'll be running or hiking at, The Plateau is a great opportunity for your legs to recoup their strength and stability after the earlier "rollercoaster" segment. Absolutely take advantage of The Plateau's predictability if needed, because the final 0.8 miles (which starts at the bottom of the most extended descent of the trail) brings back - you guessed it - more rollercoaster hills. Don't worry though, they're a much tamer subset of the previous rolling terrain that you conquered at the start of the hike.

You'll know that the rollercoaster is slowing to a halt when the parking lot comes back into sight.

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National Parks. State Parks. Municipal Parks. For most states, these are your sole recreational options, and anyone who has ample access to them should consider themselves as recreationally blessed.

Although beautiful, these parks are often either spatially limited (municipal parks), remotely located (state parks), or exceedingly rare (national parks). The net result? Aspiring outdoor enthusiasts living in an urban area like Metro Detroit often find themselves stranded without quick access to world-class outdoor opportunities.

Fortunately for all of us, the Metropark Authority has actively addressed this problem in the Detroit region for nearly a century. Starting in the late 1930s, Dr. Henry S. Curtis and Professor Harlow O. Whittemore set out to create a new "metropolitan park system" consisting of at least four connected parks, each spanning roughly 1,000 acres of land along the Huron and Clinton River watersheds. This vision evolved into 25,000 interconnected park system, spanning 5 counties and establishing one of the largest regional park systems in the country. Kensington Metropark, the first Metropark, opened it forests and waterways for recreational business in 1947; Wolcott Mill Metropark, the 13th and most recent Metropark, continued the tradition in 1989.

The mission of the Metroparks includes the conservation and provision of excellent recreational and educational opportunities, while simultaneously serving as stewards of Southeast Michigan's natural resources. The Metroparks welcome over 7.3 million annual visitors through their parkways, as well as facilitate access to world-class hiking, mountain biking, cycling, kayaking, picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, golf, disc golf, winter sports, and a host of special outdoor program opportunities.

Looking forward to later this year, the Metroparks will continue their history of progression with establishing their first presence within the City of Detroit. As announced last winter, part of the forthcoming Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park along the world-famous Detroit Riverfront will include a 2.5 acre "water garden" that will officially be named the Huron-Clinton Metroparks Water Garden.

This exciting development, including its walking paths, seating areas, educational signage, and open-air classrooms intended to engage visitors, represents the latest phase of the dynamic and transformative partnership between the Metroparks and Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.


The #TrailTuesday Series idea started as a recommendation from readers looking for a deeper analysis into the individual trails that define Detroit's vast network. One of our main goals for this platform is to produce content that reflects the outdoor interests and desires of our community, so please continue to provide us with your suggestions via our contact form or here in the comments!


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